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The Green Hornet 

This re-boot misses that sweet spot where homage, snark and cleverness intersect

click to enlarge Jay Chou and Seth Rogen run away from a bomb.
  • Jay Chou and Seth Rogen run away from a bomb.

Director: Michel Gondry 
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Cristoph Waltz
Screening in 3-D in select locations

 

Pity the Green Hornet: The crime-fighter had a mostly successful career in radio, matinee serials, television and comics, but all that goodwill has been squandered in this latest dull, unfunny mish-mash.

The Green Hornet is no superhero with extra-ordinary powers: Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is a rich guy in a cool outfit with lots of fancy crime-fighting gadgets. From his late dad, Reid also inherits a Hong Kong-born assistant, Kato (Jay Chou), with various technical and martial-arts skills. 

This latest iteration, co-scripted by Rogen and directed by Michel Gondry, offers plenty of wink-wink: a comically insecure villain, self-referential nods and oh-so-modern dialogue (everybody speaks in one-liners). But the work can't marry the silly and the serious. Reid's idea is pure stoner-nonsense: "We'll pose as villains, but act as heroes." But then, we get the montage that shows the slavishly intense work undertaken to support this idiocy: zillions spent on tricked-out cars, costumes, marketing plans, etc. 

The narrative never clarifies a mission: The pair takes up crime-fighting as a lark, and seems as gleeful to wipe out cop cars as gang members. The duo is similarly incompatible: one oafish and incompetent, the other disciplined and super-smart. (I can hear the pitch now: "Like Pineapple Express meets James Bond.")

None of this would matter if Green Hornet had found that re-booting sweet spot where homage, snark and cleverness intersect. Or, if Rogen's Reid weren't so unlikable. (The actor lost weight for this role, and he looks good.) Or if Gondry -- who made the visually kicky Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- had delivered some cool eye-candy instead of the same-old freezing, slo-mo and sped-up gimmicks. (Kato's X-ray-of-a-crime-scene point of view unfortunately recalls a similarly laughable effect on TV's Steven Seagal Lawman.)

What passes for action are incoherent car chases; a couple of explosions; idiotic shoot-outs (featuring two absurd guns: a two-barrel number that's the cheesy firearm equivalent of a double-necked guitar, and a gun that shoots balls of anesthesia); and street fighting (a combination of martial arts and hitting people with nearby heavy objects). There is one epic, but not very gripping, battle involving the wholesale destruction of a newspaper office. (Hasn't print media suffered enough?) 

In the end, the biggest crime isn't even on screen: It's suckering movie patrons with promises of exciting 3-D. Do not spring for the fancy glasses: This story is junk in any dimension, and the only place the third dimension looked cool was during the very welcome end credits.

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